Slow boat to Sydney

En route to Australia, John and Sandra Nowlan visited the tiny islands of the South Pacific.

How does one travel from Halifax to Australia without jet lag? In our case, the answer is a plane hop to the West Coast and then a journey by cruise ship, with an itinerary that included stops in Hawaii and several South Pacific islands.
As veteran Nova Scotia travel writers, it was our dream cruise: 24 days aboard the luxurious Crystal Serenity, a 1,000-passenger ship. Our trip, from Los Angeles to Sydney, was the first segment of a 112-day world cruise for Serenity. Many of our fellow guests were staying on the ship for several months with final disembarkation in Rome. One guest from Nova Scotia was on her third world cruise and was planning to do it again in 2020.
Crystal Serenity, a regular visitor to the Port of Halifax, is an ideal size for cruising: much smaller than the impersonal mega-ships but large enough to provide a variety of dining, entertainment, and education options. It’s also all-inclusive with meals, wine, spirits, and gratuities included in the fare. Our balcony room was 269 square feet, a bit small for a three week voyage but well equipped.
It took five days to reach Hawaii but time at sea is never boring. There were sports, fitness classes, and entertainment options aplenty. Lecturers taught us about the ports we would visit, the fascinating history of the South Pacific including exploration by James Cook, astronomy in the Southern Hemisphere, Pacific Marine Biology, plus topics like Broadway Musicals, Social Networking, and How to Avoid Pickpockets.
Every evening, the Galaxy Lounge (the main theatre) featured a performance by individual artists or a production show by the resident band and 10 very talented singers and dancers (the Russian dance captain was mesmerizing).
Cuisine is always important on a cruise. On Serenity, 96 chefs and cooks prepared every meal with imagination and flair. On a typical night in the main dining room, guests could choose dishes including sturgeon caviar, beef tartar with quail egg, grouper, rack of lamb, lobster thermidor or beef wellington.
We also explored the three optional restaurants (no extra cost) that set Michelin standards for fine dining. Silk Road and the Sushi Bar (Asian cuisine by Nobu Matsuhisa) and Prego (Italian) are world-class. Tastes, on the Lido deck, offers small tapas plates that are as tasty as they are creative. In all restaurants a knowledgeable sommelier pours an excellent selection of complimentary fine wines.
Our slow route to Australia included some remarkable ports. Our delightful stop in Honolulu was followed by another five days at sea and a crossing of the equator (“Sorry about the bump,” the captain joked) with a colourful, zany King Neptune ceremony.
More than 3,000 kilometres later we landed in American Samoa, the only inhabited U.S. territory south of the equator. Then it was on to Fiji where we visited a spice farm and were entertained by traditional songs and dances. In Vanuatu, a country we’d frankly never heard of, we stopped at the uninhabited Mystery Island for a few hours of sunning and swimming in crystal clear waters.
Our last port of call before Australia was Noumea in New Caledonia. It’s a French Overseas Territory, (like St. Pierre and Miquelon off the Newfoundland coast).
Sailing into Sydney Harbour on a brilliant morning was a treat we’ll always remember. All hands were on deck as we approached the twin symbols of Sydney, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. We’d finally arrived, with no jet lag.
Our return to Halifax by air was another matter. Jet lag persisted for many days.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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